Tag Archives: John Cook

One Stop For All Your Marty Peretz News

The New Republic:

Today, The New Republic announces that Marty Peretz, who has been editor-in-chief of the magazine for 37 years, will become editor-in-chief emeritus. In addition, he will move from writing his blog, The Spine, to writing a column for the website. Marty’s stewardship of The New Republic has been the liveliest and the most intellectually consequential in the long history of the magazine. Though he will no longer be at the top of the masthead, he will remain in the thick of things. Below are some thoughts from Marty:

I have been with The New Republic going on 37 years, almost all of them with the title of editor-in-chief. The truth is that I hardly ever actually edited an article for the magazine. But, frankly, it was my vision—and the vision of my compatriots—of what was needed for a serious journal of opinion in American society that defined what TNR has become since 1974.

The editors and staff we assembled constitute a marvel of American journalism, a long magic moment of intelligence, moral seriousness, responsible politics … and, forgive me, a deep concern for the national interest. Sometimes we quarreled with our readers and often amongst ourselves. And the truth is that there were a few occasions—very few, actually—in which, as proprietor of the publication, I exercised the prerogative of firing someone. But there was only one occasion when I kept an article from being published. From today’s perspective my reluctance to print something on Ted Kennedy’s sex life may seem too precious or finicky. Still, I think it was the correct judgment. Let others traffic in such trash.

So I endured hundreds and maybe thousands of pieces which I believed to be ethically flawed, historically wrong, politically foolish. History, in whatever ways history does these chores, will ultimately sort it all out. I dare say that I have tested the patience of some of my staff with more than a few of my articles and perhaps The Spine almost in its entirety. As errants go, however, they’ve flourished at least as much as I have.

Alex Pareene at Salon:

For those still wondering about the fate of Muslim-hating erstwhile New Republic owner and editor-in-chief Martin Peretz, they’ve finally made an official announcement: He is now the “editor-in-chief emeritus.” Marty never actually edited the magazine — though he hired and fired editors — but his title and ownership of the magazine allowed him to write first his regular columns and then “The Spine,” his dyspeptic blog. It is the blog that got him in trouble, which just revealed that no one ever read his print column.

And so, according to a recent New York magazine profile of Peretz, they were going to make him stop blogging. Except he kept blogging. And that is because, according to a slightly more recent New York Times Magazine profile of Peretz, he just refused to stop.

Multiple New Republic staff members told me that The Spine would soon be replaced by a rigorously edited weekly Peretz column. In Tel Aviv, Peretz laughed at the thought.

“That’s not going to happen,” Peretz said.

Now, that is going to happen. Sort of. Mostly. “In addition” to the new column, anonymous New Republic editors write, “he will move from writing his blog, The Spine, to writing a column for the website.”

Chris Rovzar at New York Magazine:

New Republic owner Marty Peretz, who has been much-profiled of late, has admitted he really hasn’t been editing the magazine for years now. (He lives in Israel, for one thing.) And now he’ll officially pass his editor-in-chief title on to Richard Just, who has been serving as editor since Franklin Foer left last month. “I have been with The New Republic going on 37 years, almost all of them with the title of editor-in-chief,” Peretz wrote in a farewell note, according to Keith Kelly. “The truth is that I hardly ever actually edited an article for the magazine. But, frankly, it was my vision and the vision of my compatriots of what was needed for a serious journal of opinion in American society that defined what TNR has become since 1974.” Peretz will continue to write a column for the website, which means his departure as titular E-i-C may not actually be a relief for anybody at the magazine.

John Cook at Gawker:

Martin Peretz is an obscenely wealthy moral cripple who owns the New Republic. His penchant for spouting ethnic slurs against Arabs recently earned him two lengthy and intense magazine profiles. Neither one saw fit to report that he is gay.

It’s an open secret in Washington, D.C., that Peretz, who came to own the New Republic after marrying Anne Labouisse, an heiress to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune, is sexually attracted to men. We’ve spoken to several people who have direct (though not intimate) knowledge of Peretz’s sexual preference and say that he makes no effort to hide it. We’re told that his children have spoken openly of their father’s life as a gay man. This is not a closely guarded secret or fleeting rumor; it’s a commonplace among members of the Washington politico-media power axis.

Peretz’s life has sort of fallen apart over the last year. Though he has been an avowed bigot for most of his adult life, he has only been held to account for his ethnic hostility to Arabs and Persians recently, when he wondered aloud on his New Republic blog “whether I need honor these people and pretend they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment, which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.” The “these people” were Arabs, for whom Peretz also said “life is cheap” (he later apologized for the First Amendment line). The naked racism of the sentiment caused even some of Peretz’ oldest friends to hang their heads in shame, and served as an ignominious cap to his career. He and his wife divorced in 2009 (they had been separated since 2005), and late last year he stepped down as the New Republic‘s titular editor-in-chief and moved to Tel Aviv, where he teaches high school students and is active on the social circuit (he still maintains residences in New York City and Cambridge, Mass.).

A late-life crisis for such an eminent figure—not to mention Peretz’s defiance in the face of critics that included longtime supporters—is catnip for magazine editors. So in December, New York published Benjamin Wallace-Wells‘ 5,500-word profile, “Peretz in Exile.” The piece delved into all manner of details of Peretz’s personal life—”theirs was a complicated union,” Wallace-Wells wrote of his marriage, quoting Peretz saying “our values—and our lifestyles—sundered us apart.” The piece noted that some of Peretz’s closest friends and family members viewed him as “more compartmentalized than ever-open, almost to a fault, and yet also hidden.” And it noted—with a wink to insiders so Wallace-Wells wouldn’t appear clueless—that Peretz’s “friendships with younger men were sometimes so intense that they could seem to border on the erotic.” As for Peretz’s actual erotic relationships with men, or the role they may or may not have played in the dissolution of his marriage—they apparently didn’t merit inclusion.

And now this week comes another 5,000-plus-word profile, this time in the New York Times Magazine. Stephen Rodrick‘s “Martin Peretz Is Not Sorry About Anything” covers much of the same ground—though it includes the rather insane story of Peretz testifying on behalf of notorious New Republic fabulist-turned lawyer Stephen Glass at a California Bar Association hearing last year. Like Wallace-Wells, Rodrick aimed squarely at Peretz’s personal romantic life but chose not to mention the most salient fact about that life. “His wife cited his infidelities and explosive temper as problems in the marriage,” Rodrick writes, “but Peretz pre-empted any discussion of his romantic world, declaring, ‘My sexual life is too complicated for one word, and not complicated enough for 15.'” Unless he is an idiot, Rodrick knew precisely what Peretz was talking about, but chose to leave readers with a blurry evasion—just as he chose to write without further clarification that Peretz “lives part of the year in a high-rise apartment tended by his assistant, a 26-year-old former I.D.F. officer.” More winks for those in the know.

Both pieces purport to be attempts to understand Peretz’s psyche, and their deliberate elisions of one of the most foundational aspects of that psyche is fundamentally dishonest. We are given to understand that Peretz is important to know, and that in order to know him we must know about his wife, his marriage, his infidelities—but not his sexuality.

Eric Alterman at The American Prospect:

Well, it’s finally over. Martin Peretz, who, according to David Horowitz’s Frontpage webzine, “has been a pillar of responsible liberalism since buying The New Republic magazine in 1974,” has finally been shown the door. He did not go quietly. You can find his parting remarks here and also here and here. Peretz left TNR as he inhabited it: in a splendid (and splenetic) fit of pique, pessimism, and personality-driven politics.

No one who knew Peretz or his magazine will doubt that it was full of sound and fury. But what did it signify? It’s no easy task to sum up 37 years of anything, much less the tenure of a magazine editor who prided himself on being described as “schizophrenic.” For some, the fact that right-wing zealots like Horowitz, his Sancho Panza, Ronald Radosh, and National Review‘s Jonah Goldberg were the only people willing to come to Peretz’s defense as he was pilloried as a racist crank tells you all you need to know about the man. (It does, after all, take one to know one.)

But then there is the matter of the magazine itself. It’s long been a cliché to point out that Peretz hired editors who were both more liberal, and usually, more intelligent than he was. And many of them went on to become among the brightest stars of the American journalistic firmament. One of them, Leon Wieseltier, stayed and stayed. (The Times piece hints of the possible gift of a house from his patron.) Allowing for a few personal obsessions of his own, Wieseltier has managed week after week, for a quarter century, to publish the most stimulating and erudite “back of the book” available anywhere in America. No matter what egregious attacks Peretz sent forth against Arabs, blacks, Mexicans, or (no less frequently) liberals, Wieseltier never had any trouble attracting top-tier reviewers whether in politics or literature and eliciting what was often their best work.

So the plus side of Peretz’s tenure was that the magazine was mostly liberal, mostly well-edited, and easily dismissible when it wasn’t. But while it is true that under Mike Kinsley, Rick Hertzberg, and to lesser extent, Peter Beinart and Frank Foer, TNR lived up to its reputation as a lively, contrarian read on the week’s news with a strong liberal voice, its net effect — even in its best years — was to weaken liberalism and comfort conservatives. The primary problem was the fact that unlike say, Commentary, which after a few years of claiming that it had been “mugged by reality” owned up to its conservative conversion, TNR continued to insist that it spoke for American liberalism. And people who did not pay too close attention — or had their own reasons for indulging this conceit — played along. And so the virus of liberal self-hatred infected the entire bloodstream of liberalism — particularly with regard to Israel and the Palestinians — and bore at its body from within.

The old “even the liberal New Republic” line that dates back to the Reagan era was no joke. Kinsley and Hertzberg could write the most brilliant eviscerations of Reaganite nonsense available anywhere, but the fact that elsewhere in the magazine, these same endeavors were receiving the enthusiastic endorsements not only of Peretz but of Charles Krauthammer, Fred Barnes, Morton Kondracke — even on occasion, the likes of Jeane Kirkpatrick and Richard Perle — counted for far more in the context of contemporary debate. The sad fact of political life in Washington is that “liberals” are never so influential as when they are throwing in the towel on their own team and endorsing the arguments of the other side. (The punditocracy tends to call this “moderation.”) The New Republic “mattered” when it endorsed the contras, the U.S. war in El Salvador, the MX missile, Charles Murray’s racist pseudo-science, Republican lies about the Clinton health-care-reform plan, the Iraq War, and pretty much everything the Israeli government has said and done for the past 37 years; other times, not so much. Liberals making liberal points, however eloquently, might make other liberals feel better. They might help to inform their arguments. But they do not make news; they do not get their authors invited on Sunday shows or invited to the White House.

Doug J.:

I think Peretz’s corruption of liberalism within the media went even deeper. He hired a lot of TNRers when they were young, just out of some Ivy League school. I knew a lot of the type of the kids he would hire and they are the most affirmation-craving people you could possibly imagine. A few years of getting patted on the head by a millionaire for churning out contrarian Harvard-dining hall bullshit leaves its mark on such souls. I don’t think Michael Kinsley ever recovered from it, though I agree he can be very sharp when he’s not basking in the brilliance of his own counterintuitive ironies. With nearly all of these TNRers, the desire to bust out “how genocide is good for your 401K” remained long after they were no longer in Peretz’s employ.

There’s no question that prominent so-called “liberals” in the media have wanked around “spreading freedom”, bashing unions, doing triple-backwards contrarian reverses, musing about IQs and school uniforms, while the American middle-class has languished on life support. That’s not right.

Leave a comment

Filed under Mainstream, New Media

“I’m So Happy. Cause Today I Found My Friends.”

James Risen in The New York Times:

The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Saturday. “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.”

Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic:

Were it not for the byline of James Risen, a New York Times reporter currently in a legal battle with the Obama administration over the identity of his sources, a second read of his blockbuster A1 story this morning, U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan, would engender some fairly acute skepticism. For one, a simple Google search identifies any number of previous stories with similar details.

The Bush Administration concluded in 2007 that Afghanistan was potentially sitting on a goldmine of mineral resources and that this fact ought to become a central point of U.S. policy in bolstering the government.


The way in which the story was presented — with on-the-record quotations from the Commander in Chief of CENTCOM, no less — and the weird promotion of a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense to Undersecretary of Defense suggest a broad and deliberate information operation designed to influence public opinion on the course of the war. Indeed, as every reader of Jared Diamond’s popular works of geographic determinism knows well, a country rich in mineral resources will tend toward stability over time, assuming it has a strong, central, and stable government.

Risen’s story notes that the minerals discovery comes at a propitious time. He focuses on lithium, a critical component of electronics. One official tells him that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium” — a comparison to oil. (I can see it now: “We must wean ourselves off our dependence on foreign lithium!”)

The general perception about the war here and overseas is that the counterinsurgency strategy has failed to prop up Hamid Karzai’s government in critical areas, and is destined to ultimately fail. This is not how the war was supposed to be going, according to the theorists and policy planners in the Pentagon’s policy shop.

What better way to remind people about the country’s potential bright future — and by people I mean the Chinese, the Russians, the Pakistanis, and the Americans — than by publicizing or re-publicizing valid (but already public) information about the region’s potential wealth?

The Obama administration and the military know that a page-one, throat-clearing New York Times story will get instant worldwide attention. The story is accurate, but the news is not that new; let’s think a bit harder about the context.

Blake Hounshell at Foreign Policy:

Wow! Talk about a game changer. The story goes on to outline Afghanistan’s apparently vast underground resources, which include large copper and iron reserves as well as hitherto undiscovered reserves lithium and other rare minerals.

Read a little more carefully, though, and you realize that there’s less to this scoop than meets the eye. For one thing, the findings on which the story was based are online and have been since 2007, courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey. More information is available on the Afghan mining ministry’s website, including a report by the British Geological Survey (and there’s more here). You can also take a look at the USGS’s documentation of the airborne part of the survey here, including the full set of aerial photographs.

Nowhere have I found that $1 trillion figure mentioned, which Risen suggests was generated by a Pentagon task force seeking to help the Afghan government develop its resources (looking at the chart accompanying the article, though, it appears to be a straightforward tabulation of the total reserve figures for each mineral times current the current market price). According to Risen, that task force has begun prepping the mining ministry to start soliciting bids for mineral rights in the fall.

Don’t get me wrong. This could be a great thing for Afghanistan, which certainly deserves a lucky break after the hell it’s been through over the last three decades.

But I’m (a) skeptical of that $1 trillion figure; (b) skeptical of the timing of this story, given the bad news cycle, and (c) skeptical that Afghanistan can really figure out a way to develop these resources in a useful way. It’s also worth noting, as Risen does, that it will take years to get any of this stuff out of the ground, not to mention enormous capital investment.

Daniel Foster at The Corner:

In one way, at least, Ambinder is obviously right. By its very nature, a story like this couldn’t be “news.” This isn’t Jed Clampett popping off his scattergun at a gopher and discovering Texas Tea. The “discovery” of vast mineral resources in a number of geographically distinct sites scattered across the country isn’t the sort of story that “breaks” over the course of hours or days. Rather, it moves at the speed of, well, at the speed of rocks. As Ambinder himself notes elsewhere in his post, the Soviets knewAfghanistan might be a jackpot way back in 1985, and the Bush administration was already building-in the political economy of mineral discoveries into itsAfghanistan policy in 2007.

So no, this isn’t “news” news, but that doesn’t necessarily make it hand-fed from the Obama administration. Perhaps I’m being credulous here, but the sourcing and timing of the story, and the fact that there is now at least a rough dollar-figure — $1 trillion — attached to the cache could just as likely indicate that what were heretofore diffuse bits of information and speculation have now cohered, reached a critical mass and crossed over from abstract-future-opportunity to bona-fide-policy-challenge.

Ed Morrissey:

My first thought on reading this was that the Soviets may have had better reasons for invading Afghanistan than first thought.  There has been no real reporting on whether the Soviets attempted to exploit Afghanistan’s mineral resources, but had they succeeded in keeping their grip on the nation, they could have found a new way to stay in business against the West rather than going bankrupt in the Cold War economic warfare that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher conducted against Moscow.

That is pure speculation, but don’t expect that to end just because the Soviet Union collapsed.  We’ve spent over eight years in Afghanistan attempting to subdue the radicals and fight those across the border in Pakistan’s frontier provinces, and many people have questioned why we’re spending so much blood and treasure in a country known for its ability to bankrupt empires.  We have plenty of good strategic reasons to attempt to salvage Afghanistan and keep it from becoming a failed state, but this find will definitely have those inclined towards conspiracy theories cranking up new plots and dark cabals as the real reason we’re attempting to salvage Afghanistan.  A trillion dollars in new mineral deposits don’t come along very often, after all, and some of these minerals will be critical to energy and military applications.

Still, this is a blessing for the Afghan people.  They will need a massive improvement in infrastructure in order to get the materials out for export, but that investment will come a lot faster with this find.   It gives them a real alternative to narco-trafficking, which because of the poverty and Stone Age infrastructure of the country, has been the only option for many Afghans.’

Spencer Ackerman:

So if you were still operating on the presumption that the real reason we remain at war after nine years is something to do with the world’s least efficient way to establish and control an oil pipeline, you’re so 2000-and-late. What, you thought it was a coincidence that the Center for a New American Security established its natural-resources/defense program so soon after the first wave of its leadership entered the Obama Pentagon and State Department? It’s a shame we can’t manufacture cellphone batteries from your vast deposits of naivete.

But I digress. This could potentially work out well for Afghanistan’s opium-and-foreign-aid dependent economy. But Risen details the ways in which the so-called “resource curse” is primed to take effect after the discovery: massive official corruption; weak legal understandings controls delineating ownership and revenue-sharing between national and provincial authorities in mineral-rich areas; decades of warfare. And now, naturally, someone’s telling Risen about the specter of great-power resource competition that just so perfectly implies a new rationale for extended war and post-war foreign influence:

American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said.

Hey, just because something aligns with a conspiracy theory doesn’t mean it lacks geopolitical impact.

Matthew Yglesias:

So Afghanistan is going to be “the Saudi Arabia of lithium”, but a more prosaic way of putting the point might be that Afghanistan is, if it’s lucky, poisoned to become the next Bolivia. Indeed, when last we saw geopolitical lithium hype this was the concern and thanks to lithium’s use in batteries for the hypothetical fleet of electric cars that will allegedly save the planet, Bolivia’s been called “the Saudi Arabia of the green world”. But it’s also an impoverished backwater.

Part of the problem, as you can read here and here is that it’s simply difficult in practice to put this kind of wealth to good use.

Kevin Drum:

I have a very bad feeling about this. It could quickly turn into a toxic combination of stupendous wealth, superpower conflict, oligarchs run wild, entire new levels of corruption, and a trillion new reasons for the Taliban to fight even harder. And for the cynical among us, this line from Risen’s piece — “American and Afghan officials agreed to discuss the mineral discoveries at a difficult moment in the war in Afghanistan” — suggests that the Obama administration might be eagerly thinking about these discoveries as a shiny new reason to keep a military presence in Afghanistan forever. I can hardly wait to see what Bill Kristol thinks of this.

On the other hand, maybe it represents lots of new jobs, enough money to suck away the Taliban’s foot soldiers, and the stable income base Afghanistan needs to develop a modern infrastructure. I doubt it, but you never know.

Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic:

Here’s an idea: rather than asking Americans to trod across this minefield in hopes of getting some of the treasure on the other side, let’s take a lesson from history, fully appreciate all the buried danger, and ask ourselves how we can best withdraw ourselves from the situation, sending someone else across the minefield in our stead. The United Nations? The World Bank? The China Mineral Corporation? Whoever it is, better that they suffer the consequences of this find than that we do.

Rod Dreher:

I told a friend the news that the U.S. has discovered vast mineral wealth in Afghanistan. She said sarcastically, “Oh great, now we get to ‘Avatar’ those people” — by which she meant that the U.S. stands to economically colonize Afghanistan, like the earth people did to the N’avi in “Avatar.”

I don’t think that’s the danger here. Rather, I think that this means US troops will be permanently stationed in Afghanistan, protecting US access to those mineral deposits. It is to be hoped that the money to come will help Afghanistan stabilize itself. I am skeptical, though. There’s this comment from the Times story:

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

Yeah, that’s just what we need: another hyper-wealthy Islamic extremist state with the financial resources to export its radical interpretation of Islam. There may be a realist case for keeping US troops in Afghanistan to prevent the Taliban from gaining control of the mineral wealth and using it to export radical Islam.

Whatever the truth, I am very sorry these resources were discovered in that cursed country. It’s going to mean no end of trouble. I expect that I’ll live to see Chinese soldiers in the Middle East.

It’s very hard to imagine that a country as misgoverned as Afghanistan will be an exception to the rule that whom the gods destroy, they first make rich in natural resources.

UPDATE: James Risen interviewed by John Cook at Yahoo News

And everyone chimes on that interview:

James Joyner

Jason Linkins at Huffington Post

Dan Amira at New York Magazine

1 Comment

Filed under Af/Pak

kf To The Senate?

Dennis Romero at LA Weekly:

Pioneering political blogger Mickey Kaus took out papers filed to run for U.S. Senate in California, he told LA Weekly. The Venice resident said he’ll run this year against Barbara Boxer for her seat. He said he took out filed papers at with the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters, although a spokeswoman there could not yet confirm the filing.

The Democrat has been centrist and even conservative on some of the issues on which Boxer has taken a more left-leaning stand, including immigration: He does not favor amnesty and favors a more restrictive national policy.

The journalist’s Wiki entry says he’s also “skeptical of affirmative action, labor unions (particularly automotive workers’ unions and teachers’ unions), and gerrymandering of congressional districts.”

It’s not clear where he’ll get the money to run against such a well-oiled machine as Boxer’s. But one blogger called Boxer’s poll numbers “less than intimidating.”

And in his Kausfiles blog, Kaus has quite the widely-read bully pulpit, with an estimated readership of as many as 30,000 people daily.

Mickey Kaus:

The rollout didn’t go as my team of highly paid media consultants* had planned– L.A. Weekly got it way before it was supposed to. Heads will roll around here. But I did go down to the local registrar’s office Monday and take out nomination papers to run in the primary for U.S. Senator against Barbara Boxer. If I return them in timely fashion with enough signatures, I should be able to get on the June ballot. We’ll see what happens.

This isn’t the place to make an electioneering spiel–I don’t want to be a test case of campaign finance law if I can help it. But the basic idea would be to argue, as a Democrat, against the party’s dogma on several major issues (you can guess which ones). Likeminded Dem voters who assume they will vote for Sen. Boxer The Incumbent in the fall might value a mechanism that lets them register their dissent in the primary.

Next phase: Lowering expectations!

Doug J.:

I’m not a Kaus-hater, but I have to confess I just don’t “get” the Kausfiles. Who could stand reading something like that? I tried for a while. It’s worse than The Note was when Halperin ran it, stylistically.

James Joyner:

This would seem to be a classic protest candidacy, with next to zero chance of upsetting Boxer in the primary.  (The Republican contenders, especially Chuck Devore, appear to have a quite decent chance of doing it in the general, however.)  But it should be interesting.

Robert Stacy McCain:

Bloggers running for public office could create some interesting questions for the FEC. Will an Instalanche be considered a “contribution in kind”? And what about getting re-Tweeted by Alyssa Milano?

So far, the former “Who’s the Boss?” star-turned-mega-Tweep — with more than 700,000 followers — hasn’t mentioned Kaus’s Senate campaign, and her support is obviously crucial in the online community.

Alyssa Milano never re-Tweeted Harold Ford Jr. Just sayin’ . . .


HE’S GOT MY VOTE: Mickey Kaus for Senate! “Pioneering political blogger Mickey Kaus filed to run for U.S. Senate in California, he told LA Weekly. The Venice resident said he’ll run this year against Barbara Boxer for her seat.”

UPDATE: Rob Kiser emails: “Someone needs to remind LA Weekly it’s not ‘her” seat. It’s the ‘people’s seat’.”

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner:

Obviously, I’d prefer a strong conservative Republican over a moderate liberal Democrat as the next senator from California. But Mickey Kaus would provide the sort of iconoclasm the Democratic party desperately needs, particularly in California. If more Democrats were as empirical and tough-minded as Mickey, the country and the state would be in a lot better shape. I’m reminded that WFB supported tough-minded Democrat Joe Lieberman over squishy Republican Lowell Weicker on similar grounds. Still, I hardly think what Mickey needs to win in a Democratic primary is full-throated support from the likes of me, or National Review. (There’s a story about Lyndon Johnson begging The New Republic to stop praising him and start attacking him because in Texas, praise from The New Republic was less than helpful). So, I’m fully prepared to attack Kaus’s outrageous, left-wing vanity run to be the next left-wing looney bird from Hollyweird!

Matthew Yglesias:

I’m going to go counter-counterintuitive here and say that if some weird process put Mickey Kaus in the United States Senate, he’d wind up being someone who neither Reynolds nor Goldberg like very much. It’s not really clear to me what votes Kaus would have cast differently from Boxer or what difference it would have made. And of course like all politicians if he were actually in office he would face strong incentives to act like a conventional politician rather than like a contrarian blogger.

Moe Lane at Redstate:

For obvious reasons, I’m not endorsing him – a hypothetical Senator Kaus would caucus with the Democrats, which breaks the first rule of my endorsement criteria – but if you’re a Democrat who is tired of a liberal idiot* or idiots representing you, well, do something useful about it.  Nobody cares if you’re just going to be mortified.

Moe Lane

PS: If you’re wondering about a particular… consistency… to the slurs against Mickey in that LA Daily post’s comment section, go click the links found here.  Essentially, this is a legacy of the pushback against Kaus for taking the John Edwards adultery story seriously.  What?  Why are the netroots still trying to use that line, even though it turned out that the netroots had been collectively and individually played for fools?

Re-read the last half of that last sentence for the answer.

UPDATE: Ross Douthat

Ezra Klein

James Joyner

UPDATE #2: Robert Wright and Jim Pinkerton at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #3: Ed Carson at Capital Hill

UPDATE #4: John Cook at Gawker

Deborah Solomon at NYT

Matthew Yglesias

Robert Farley

UPDATE #5: Kaus’s final post on Slate

UPDATE #6: James Wolcott

UPDATE #7: Robert Wright and Mickey Kaus at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #8: Stephen Kaus

Robert Farley


Filed under New Media, Political Figures

Oh Jimmy Mack, When Are You Coming Back?

Chris Good at The Atlantic:

James O’Keefe, the conservative filmmaker who posed as a pimp in video stings at ACORN field offices, has been arrested by the FBI at Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) office in downtown New Orleans, in connection to what appears to be an attempt to wiretap the offiice, NOLA.com reports:

FBI Special Agent Steven Rayes alleges that O’Keefe aided and abetted two others, Joseph Basel and Robert Flanagan, who dressed up as employees of a telephone company and attempted to interfere with the office’s telephone system.

A fourth person, Stan Dai, was accused of aiding and abetting Basel and Flanagan. All four were charged with entering fedral property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.

O’Keefe gained notoriety for his secretly filmed ACORN videos, which caused a firestorm of media intrigue surrounding ACORN after O’Keefe posted them on the Andrew-Brietbart-owned blog Big Government last year.

Michelle Malkin:

The Times-Picayune has not posted the full FBI affidavit, but the details they have are damning. This is neither a time to joke nor a time to recklessly accuse Democrats/liberals of setting this up — nor a time to whine about media coverage double standards. Deal with what’s on the table


UPDATE x3: OK, final word. I’m sticking out my neck and declaring that I think this will prove to be a big nothing.

I just don’t believe this guy was wiretapping phones or trying to do so. I really don’t.

It might not even have been an attempt to show how easy it would be to bug phones. Maybe there is another explanation. But I don’t think he was acting in a criminal fashion. I don’t.

You can quote me.

Rick Moran:

But this guy is no journalist – conservative or otherwise. He’s a glory hound. And, if these charges pan out, prove the adage that you’re only as good as your next spectacular. The nature of modern celebrity demanded that O’Keefe try and top his ACORN show. Taping the private conversations of Landrieu and spilling them out all over YouTube would have kept him on top of the heap.

Fortunately, the FBI had other ideas and now O’Keefe faces the prospect of doing hard hitting exposes about prison food.

What a dope.

Andrew Breitbart at Big Government:

Wait until the facts are in.

Mainstream Media, ACORN, Media Matters (all the supposed defenders of due process and journalistic ethics) are jumping to conclusions over the arrest today of James O’Keefe, with the clear intention to smear and, if possible, convict O’Keefe and his alleged co-conspirators in the court of public opinion in order to taint the “jury of their peers.”

The ACORN story was a huge black eye for the organized left and their allies and cohorts in the mainstream media. So they are relishing every minute of this breaking story, making it their top story – while they ignored the initial ACORN story until they no longer could.

MSNBC and other “news organizations” are even billing this developing story as “Watergate”. What do  Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow know? And when did they know it?

I’m sure they would like to believe O’Keefe is stupid enough to try to “wiretap” a sitting U.S. senator in broad daylight during office hours, while recording the entire sequence of events on his cell phone camera. And they’d like you to believe it, too.

But there is absolutely no allegation in the criminal complaint that “wiretapping” or “bugging” is any part of this case, just the charge that O’Keefe and the others entered Sen. Landrieu’s office in New Orleans “for the purpose of interfering with the office’s telephone system.”



Heh. I can only hope the judge does a John Sirica, ie throws the book at him, and finds out exactly who’s been putting him up to this shit.

David Weigel at The Washington Independent:

O’Keefe had become a conservative media star since the ACORN sting. I just talked to Lisa De Pasquale, director of CPAC, who said that O’Keefe, along with co-stinger Hannah Giles and Andrew Breitbart, is (or was) under consideration for the annual conservative conference’s coveted Reagan Award.

Mike Flynn, the editor of Big Government–where the ACORN videos originally appeared–told me that the conservative news site had no knowledge of what O’Keefe was up to.

“We had absolutely no clue what he was up to,” said Flynn, “and now you see why! It’s a complete surprise to us. We’ll just see what happens.”

John Cook at Gawker:

And, of course, Fox News, which was one of the outlets that pushed hardest to turn O’Keefe into a folk hero, is taking the position that this Landrieu office incident is a story “that probably needs a lot of context and a lot of looking into” before anyone jumps to conclusions. Unlike, say, videos of a white boy in garish pimp clothes which are prima facie evidence of … something.

Lindsay Beyerstein:

Stan Dai is one of the four men arrested with a failed attempt to bug Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office.

I did some research. Ten bucks says this is the little (would-be) bugger:

STAN DAI, Lisle, Ill., attends The George Washington University majoring in Political Science. He is editor-in-chief of The GW Patriot, an alternative conservative student newspaper, a Club 100 Activist of Young America’s Foundation, and an Undergraduate Fellow on Terrorism of the Foundation for the Defense of the Democracies. He is co-founder of GW’s Students Defending Democracy, a volunteer on several political campaigns, and active in the GW College Republicans and GW Colonials for Life. He was a 2003 Honorable Mention in the U.S. Institute of Peace Essay Contest.

One Stan Dai was listed as the Assistant Director of the The Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence (ICCAE) at Trinity (Washington) University. The ICCAE says it prepares young people for careers in intelligence.

(Original reporting, please credit Lindsay Beyerstein.)

Pareene at Gawker:

And Breitbart playing dumb about the activities of his newest pet conservative media darling strains credulity. First of all, O’Keefe was Tweeting that he was up to something. If O’Keefe was truly a free agent, wandering the nation taking down liberals on his own time and selling the videos to the highest bidder, then sure, Breitbart didn’t know. But O’Keefe’s on the BigGovernment payroll.

Read this interview Breitbart did with Hugh Hewitt yesterday. Breitbart says the last time he talked to O’Keefe was “weeks” ago (but less than a month ago). Hewitt asks how much Breitbart paid O’Keefe for the ACORN video:

HH: And are you free to tell me how much you pay him?
AB: I’ll…perhaps at another date, but he’s paid a fair salary.
HH: Is he…so he is an employee?
AB: I’m not sure that’s technically the thing, but yes, he’s paid for his life rights. And he’s, you know, he’s still…we reserve the right to say yes or no to any of the stories that he puts up on our site as we do to any other contributor who comes to the site.
HH: Will it be a mischaracterization to say he was working for you when he went about this?
AB: Well, I mean, no. He was not involved in anything that was related to Big Government, or Breitbart.com.
HH: And I think that’s the key thing. Lots of people work for lots of corporations, and do dumb and sometimes illegal things that are not within the scope of their employment. And this was not within the scope of his employment.
AB: Yes, absolutely. That is absolutely the case.

So… Andrew’s websites pay O’Keefe a salary and have right of first refusal for the work he produces as an “independent filmmaker.” But the work he did when he attempted to film himself and his friends sneaking into the office of a US Senator to tamper with her phones does not count as work done for Andrew’s sites. (I guess because it wasn’t finished?) Lots of people do illegal things “that are not within the scope of their employment,” sure, but O’Keefe’s job is actually sneaking into places under false pretenses and filming it without permission, for Andrew’s websites.

UPDATE: Chris Good

Allah Pundit

Jonathan Turley

UPDATE #2: James O’Keefe’s statement on Big Government

Ed Morrissey

Chris Good at The Atlantic

David Weigel at Washington Independent

UPDATE #3: Ben Stein at The American Spectator


David Weigel at Washington Independent

UPDATE #4: Chris Good again, on the prosecutor’s withdrawal

More Patterico

UPDATE #5: Max Blumenthal at Salon

Larry O’Connor at Big Journalism

David Weigel at Washington Independent

UPDATE #6: David Weigel at Washington Independent

Max Blumenthal

Frank Ross at Big Journalism

Lachlan Markay at Newsbusters

UPDATE #7: Charles Johnson and Conn Carroll debate Salon/O’Keefe at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #8: Justin Elliott at TPM

UPDATE #9: More Elliott at TPM

David Frum at FrumForum


Filed under Crime, New Media

I’m Beginning To See The Light


A woman has written the same letter defending Obama to dozens of publications across the country, getting them published in at least 42 newspapers in 18 states, as well as Politico.com, the Washington Times, and USA Today. And the woman, Ellie Light, has claimed residence in many of these states.

Think there might be some phony Astroturfing there?

At the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Sabrina Eaton makes a nice catch:

Ellie Light sure gets around.

In recent weeks, Light has published virtually identical “Letters to the Editor” in support of President Barack Obama in more than a dozen newspapers.Every letter claimed a different residence for Light that happened to be in the newspaper’s circulation area.

“It’s time for Americans to realize that governing is hard work, and that a president can’t just wave a magic wand and fix everything,” said a letter from alleged Philadelphian Ellie Light, that was published in the Jan. 19 edition of The Philadelphia Daily News.

A letter from Light in the Jan. 20 edition of the San Francisco Examiner concluded with an identical sentence, but with an address for Light all the way across the country in Daly City, California.

Variations of Light’s letter ran in Ohio’s Mansfield News Journal on Jan. 13, with Light claiming an address in Mansfield; in New Mexico’s Ruidoso News on Jan. 12, claiming an address in Three Rivers; in South Carolina’s The Sun News on Jan. 18, claiming an address in Myrtle Beach; and in the Daily News Leader of Staunton, Virginia on Jan. 15, claiming an address in Waynesboro. Her publications list includes other papers in Ohio, West Virginia, Maine, Michigan, Iowa, Pennsylvania and California, all claiming separate addresses.

Shannon Bell:

The “concerned citizen” named Ellie Light goes on to claim that we the American people were victims of extortion; extortion by banks who threw our economy into freefall. I’ll agree with the extortion part, only I’ll disagree with the guilty party. We are victims of extortion, only the extortion that takes place on a daily basis is by those elected to protect and defend the constitution and conduct the people’s business on our behalf. Nice try Ellie Light.

She closes by bemoaning the fact that Obama is being attacked for promising that our problems would be solved instantly. Actually the majority of attacks aimed at Obama are for the mess he’s making, not the mess he failed to clean up. Ellie Light, mysterious letter writing Obama supporter seems to forget that Bush was attacked for not waving his proverbial magic wand and fixing problems. What’s good for the goose, you know what I mean? I think Ellie Light is Michelle Obama, David Axelrod or maybe even Obama himself. Maybe he penned the letter on his way back from Massachusetts.

Frank Ross at Big Journalism:

The blogosphere is abuzz with speculation tonight about the real identity of the strange and wonderfully timely “Ellie Light,” President Obama’s No. 1 fan and apparently the owner of more residences than Donald Trump, John McCain and John Kerry combined.  Not to mention an indefatigable letter writer.

With Obama slumping in the polls, and reduced to more campaign-style appearances in front of friendly audiences in lieu of, you know, actually governing, the ethereal Ms. Light has taken pen in hand on multiple occasions to support her (?) fading Hope

Dan Riehl

Candance Moore at Newsbusters:

Almost every paper uses some kind of vetting process precisely to stop such spamming. It boggles the mind that editors in dozens of newsrooms did nothing until she got this far.

The day after Eaton’s story broke, Patterico took to the chase and compiled a more complete list of Light’s appearances. No thanks to the mainstream media, bloggers worked their search engines to expose the size of Light’s scam.

All told, 42 newspapers had fallen for Light, and on the very day that the Cleveland paper broke the story, USA Today had just printed their own version. It is absurd that three weeks passed with no one catching on.

Within the city of Philadelphia, for example, Light was published by the two major newspapers – the Inquirer and the Daily News – within the same week, and somehow nobody noticed her duet performance. Three papers within the state of Connecticut, two in Maryland, and three in Wisconsin also fell for the trick.

Either competing papers within the same city don’t bother reading each other’s content, or someone was remarkably lazy not to connect the dots. Aside from the proximity of such news outlets, Light got so much exposure that any editor should have been aware.

It should warm your heart to know that mainstream newspaper editors are so out-of-touch, something can appear in the blogosphere and all of their competitors for three weeks without them even noticing.

Some 48 hours after breaking the story, the Cleveland Plain Dealer stands alone as the only mainstream newspaper pursuing it. While the scandal grows in the blogosphere, the outlets that printed her letters have left them online, untouched, intact, and with no corrections offered to their readers.

Ellie Light remains a mystery, and with no interest from the media to confront their own negligence, very little pressure is being applied to find out who she is. After three weeks of blissful ignorance, the editors who fell for Ellie Light are content with the truth remaining untold.

I don’t find the fact that some inveterate letter-writer who aches to see her name in print is doing what inveterate letter-writers who ache to see their names in print have done for the better part of a century all that interesting … or I wouldn’t, were it not for the person the only Google Book Search return for the name “Ellie Light” suggests she might have married.*

*The first person who says this is a case of me being a hammer and everything looking like a nail is probably right.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin

Daniel Foster at National Review

Ed Morrissey

UPDATE #2: Ben Smith at Politico

More Patterico

UPDATE #3: John Cook at Gawker

UPDATE #4: More Patterico



Filed under Political Figures

Wyclef Jean Presents The Charity

The Smoking Gun:

The Haiti earthquake has already triggered hundreds of thousands of donations to musician Wyclef Jean’s charitable foundation, which expects to raise upwards of $1 million a day in the disaster’s wake. However, Internal Revenue Service records show the group has a lackluster history of accounting for its finances, and that the organization has paid the performer and his business partner at least $410,000 for rent, production services, and Jean’s appearance at a benefit concert. Though the Wyclef Jean Foundation, which does business as Yele Haiti Foundation, was incorporated 12 years ago–and has been active since that time–the group only first filed tax returns in August 2009. That month, the foundation provided the IRS with returns covering calendar years 2005, 2006, and 2007–the only periods for which it has publicly provided a glimpse at its financial affairs. In 2006, Jean’s charity reported contributions of $1 million, the bulk of which came from People magazine in exchange for the first photos of a pregnant Angelina Jolie (the actress reportedly directed that the publication’s payment go to Jean’s charity, not her personally). As seen on the following pages from the foundation’s 2006 tax return, the group paid $31,200 in rent to Platinum Sound, a Manhattan recording studio owned by Jean and Jerry Duplessis, who, like Jean, is a foundation board member. A $31,200 rent payment was also made in 2007 to Platinum Sound. The rent, tax returns assure, “is priced below market value.” The recording studio also was paid $100,000 in 2006 for the “musical performance services of Wyclef Jean at a benefit concert.” That six-figure payout, the tax return noted, “was substantially less than market value.” The return, of course, does not address why Jean needed to be paid to perform at his own charity’s fundraiser. But the largest 2006 payout–a whopping $250,000–went to Telemax, S.A., a for-profit Haiti company in which Jean and Duplessis were said to “own a controlling interest.” The money covered “pre-purchased…TV airtime and production services” that were part of the foundation’s “outreach efforts” in Haiti. No further description of these services was offered, though the return claimed that “the fees paid are below market” and that the use of Telemax was the “most efficient way of providing these services.” The group’s tax returns also report “consultant” payments totaling $300,000 between 2005-2007, while the 2006 return reported nearly $225,000 in “promotion and PR” costs. These expenses are not itemized further in the IRS returns.

John Cook at Gawker:

When we called a contact number for Duplessis listed in Yele Haiti’s tax return, a receptionist at Platinum Sounds answered the phone and referred us to a public relations firm. We haven’t heard back from the publicist. We also tried to contact Hugh Locke, the head of Orsa Consultants, a firm that Yele Haiti paid $82,000 in 2006. According to this 2005 press release, Orsa is a “corporate social responsibility consultancy” that managed Yele Haiti’s programs; we couldn’t find any public references to Orsa independent of Yele Haiti, and the firm’s web site is no longer operative. When we called Lock, he immediately handed the phone to someone identifying herself as “Mrs. Lock,” who referred us to the PR firm. When we asked her about Yele Haiti’s expenditures, she said, “Our finances are totally straightened out. We have filed, and are up to date on everything.”

None of this means that Jean, Duplessis, and Yele Haiti aren’t doing important work in Haiti, or that they can’t play a constructive role in responding to the earthquake crisis. It does mean that, if the past is any guide, they are unlikely to wisely manage any of the money they are currently collecting from concerned Americans on behalf of the victims in Haiti.

More Cook

Tim Cavanaugh at Reason:

Non-profit management is an ugly business under the best conditions. There are few major charities where you won’t find most of the pennies on your donated dollar diverted to waste, rent-seeking, politicking and other forms of institutional self-perpetuation. Jean’s has not blazed any new trails in reliability, and it’s wonderful to contemplate the levels of concealment involved when somebody asks what you make and you respond with how much you make per month, after taxes.

Furthermore, Haiti didn’t just start being a basket case on Tuesday. It doesn’t make the mismanagement any less serious that it was going on when Haiti was a disaster nobody cared about. It also doesn’t inspire confidence that Jean’s staff might rise to the occasion now that Haiti is temporarily a disaster everybody cares about.

On the other hand, most charities, like most everythings, are failures, and despite Yéle’s previous poor performance it could still succeed with its new windfall. I’d expect more than a plane full of Clif Bars for my $5, but given how hard it is to get into Port-au-Prince in the first place, even this may not be evidence of incompetence.

It has been jarring this week to realize how many people give some variation of “I just give and pray the money goes where it’s supposed to go,” when asked about the reliability of charities. But who am I to judge? I kicked into a Help Haiti bucket the other day that for all I know is being handled by the Avenues Gang. It’s still a pretty good bet Jean is doing more for Haiti than fellow Fugees Lauryn Hill and Pras.

Felix Salmon:

What’s more, charities raising money for Haiti right now are going to have to earmark that money to be spent in Haiti and in Haiti only. For a Haiti-specific charity like Yele, that’s not an option. But as The Smoking Gun shows, Yele is not the soundest of charitable institutions: it has managed only one tax filing in its 12-year existence, and it has a suspicious habit of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on paying either Wyclef Jean personally or paying companies where he’s a controlling shareholder, or paying his recording-studio expenses. If you want to be certain that your donation will be well spent, you might be a bit worried that, for instance, Yele is going to be receiving 20% of the proceeds of the telethon.

Meanwhile, none of the money from the telethon will go to the wholly admirable Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders, which has already received enough money over the past three days to keep its Haiti mission running for the best part of the next decade. MSF is behaving as ethically as it can, and has determined that the vast majority of the spike in donations that it’s received in the past few days was intended to be spent in Haiti. It will therefore earmark that money for Haiti, and try to spend it there over the coming years, even as other missions, elsewhere in the world, are still in desperate need of resources. Do give money to MSF, then, but if you do, make sure that your donation is unrestricted. The charity will do its very best in Haiti either way, but by allowing your money to be spent anywhere, you will help people in dire need all over the world, not just in Haiti.

Wyclef Jean’s statement:

Lisa Derrick at Firedoglake:

In recent days questions were raised by The Smoking Gun and the Washington Post about past expenditures by Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti foundation.

Jean has responded on his YouTube channel explaining that he has been in Haiti already, digging out bodies and burying them, and that he started Yele Haiti, an NGO with $1 million of own money.

He answers charges that money was spent on organizing a concert, explaining that there are costs associated with fund raisers, and says that he is disgusted that people would question his dedication ot his homeland. Speaking in both Haitian Creole and English, Wyclef expressed his love and devotion to Haiti, his native land.

The singer will be holding a press conference in a few hours.

On January 22 Wyclef and George Clooney will host a benefit featuring Bono, Alicia Keyes, Sting, Christina Aguilera and Timberlake. Money will be raised for the the Red Cross, UNICEF, Oxfam America, Partners in Health and Jean’s Yele Haiti Foundation, so Wyclef’s really gotta come through here.

UPDATE: More John Cook from Gawker

Leave a comment

Filed under Foreign Affairs, Global Hot Spots, Music

It’s Pat

Allah Pundit:

He may be a crank, but he’s consistent in his crankery. Anywhere there’s human misery — after 9/11, after Katrina, even after Ariel Sharon’s stroke — Reverend Pat will be there to explain to the victims why they deserved it. (And he’s not the only one.) He’s taking a beating on Twitter right now for having said this, including/especially from Christians who don’t want to see the faith smeared by his latest Old Testament thunderbolt theory. No worries there: Other Christian leaders, starting with the Pope and Franklin Graham, are taking a more New Testament view. But even conceding that he doesn’t speak for most Christians, he does still command a sizable following, no? Even after years of barfing up stuff like this.

If you’re wondering what the “pact with the devil” is all about (fact check: roughly 95 percent of Haitians are Christian), Tapper has some quickie background. Tongue-in-cheek exit question from MKH: According to the Harry Reid standard, shouldn’t Robertson’s charitable works absolve him from any and all offensive utterances?

Peter Wehner at The Corner:

Set aside the fact that this “true story” is based on a legend. Set aside, too, the arbitrary foolishness of Robertson’s statement (why would God lash out at Haiti but not at Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, or secular Europe?). And set aside the hardness of heart that would lead a man, at this moment, to see human misery on such a mass scale and blame an impoverished nation for bringing upon itself the judgment of the Almighty.

There is another important issue involved here, which is a warped and confused theology Robertson has employed before. For example, Robertson agreed with Jerry Falwell that on 9/11 God lifted the “curtain” and allowed the enemies of America to give us “probably what we deserve”; and in 1998 he warned after Orlando city officials voted to fly rainbow flags from city lampposts during an annual Gay Day event at Disney World, “I don’t think I’d be waving those flags in God’s face if I were you. . . . [A] condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It’ll bring about terrorist bombs, it’ll bring earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor.”

Pat Robertson’s argument is as neat and clean as a mathematical equation: God grants blessings and curses on nations and people based on their allegiance and obedience to Him. If things are going well, you’re living right; if things are going badly, you’re living wrong. And it is Robertson himself who can divine the hierarchy of sins that most trouble God.

But this view simply does not correspond with any serious understanding of Christianity. After all, the most important symbol in Christianity is the Cross, which represents suffering, agony, and death. When Jesus spoke to Ananias, who was instrumental in the conversion of the Apostle Paul, Ananias was told, “I will show [Paul] how much he must suffer for my name.” Christ Himself warned His disciples that they would suffer for His sake; most of them were martyred for their faith. The Apostle Peter speaks about the suffering that Christians will endure for doing good. And in the book of Romans we read that we are to rejoice in our suffering because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; and character produces hope. On and on it goes.

Ann Althouse:

When so many in Haiti have died or are dying and suffering, how can anyone think this is the time to say such a thing? Does religion give Robertson the gall? I’m not going to ask why a belief in God doesn’t frighten people out of such heartlessness. It’s too sadly obvious that it does not.

Matthew Yglesias:

But was there a pact with the devil? I would also note that the Haitian Revolution began in 1791, years before Napoleon took over France as Consul. Napoleon III didn’t come to power until 1848. So clearly Robertson is confused on the basic history. But I believe that Robertson is referring to the Bois Caïman Ceremony that in Haitian national mythology initiated the revolution. This was a Vodou ceremony and the following text is normally attributed to its leader, Boukman:

The god who created the earth; who created the sun that gives us light. The god who holds up the ocean; who makes the thunder roar. Our God who has ears to hear. You who are hidden in the clouds; who watch us from where you are. You see all that the white has made us suffer. The white man’s god asks him to commit crimes. But the god within us wants to do good. Our god, who is so good, so just, He orders us to revenge our wrongs. It’s He who will direct our arms and bring us the victory. It’s He who will assist us. We all should throw away the image of the white men’s god who is so pitiless. Listen to the voice for liberty that speaks in all our hearts.

If you were a white, Catholic French person or Haitian plantation owner, I can see why you would characterize this as a prayer offered “to the devil.” The black Haitians are postulating the existence of two Gods, one for the whites and one for the blacks. The whites regard the God they pray to as the one true God. So if the blacks are praying to some second god, and doing it with a Vodou ceremony, it stands to reason that they’re engaged in a satanic ritual of some sort.

But there’s no reason for 21st century Americans to accept this interpretation of the story. From the Haitian perspective, I think you’d say they were just praying to God for his assistance and asserting the justice of their cause. This is what pretty much everyone does before heading into battle.

Joe Carter at First Things:

The collected lunacy of Robertson could fill several volumes but I thought I’d share a few of my favorite quotes that reveal the breadth of his wit and wisdom:

On Ecumenism

“You say you’re supposed to be nice to the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians and the Methodists and this, that, and the other thing. Nonsense, I don’t have to be nice to the spirit of the Antichrist. I can love the people who hold false opinions but I don’t have to be nice to them.”

—The 700 Club, January 14, 1991

On Pluralism in Government

“Individual Christians are the only ones really—and Jewish people, those who trust God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—are the only ones that are qualified to have the reign, because hopefully, they will be governed by God and submit to Him.”

—Defending his stance that only Christians and Jews are fit to hold public office, The 700 Club, January 11, 1985

“If anybody understood what Hindus really believe, there would be no doubt that they have no business administering government policies in a country that favors freedom and equality.”

The New World Order (p. 219)

On the Homosexual Agenda

“[Homosexuals] want to come into churches and disrupt church services and throw blood all around and try to give people AIDS and spit in the face of ministers.”

—The 700 Club, January 18, 1995

“Many of those people involved with Adolf Hitler were Satanists, many of them were homosexuals—the two things seem to go together.”

—The 700 Club, January 21, 1993

“Many observers say that AIDS is the hammer and gun of the homosexual movement, an effective vehicle to propel the homosexual agenda throughout every phase of our society.”

—The 700 Club June 20, 1990

On Feminists

“N.O.W. is saying that in order to be a woman, you’ve got to be a lesbian.”

—The 700 Club, December 3, 1997

On the Flying of Freak Flags

“I would warn Orlando that you’re right in the way of some serious hurricanes and I don’t think I’d be waving those flags in God’s face if I were you, This is not a message of hate; this is a message of redemption. But a condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation. It’ll bring about terrorist bombs; it’ll bring earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor.”

—The 700 Club” June 6, 1998 speaking about “Gay Day” at Disney World

John Cook at Gawker:

Pat Robertson is as hateful and seized by superstition as any Taliban mullah with a knot in his forehead from obsessively banging it into a prayer mat. The motivation for this latest proclamation is no doubt the fact that about half the people in Haiti practice voodoo, an amalgam of Catholicism and African animism that dates to the importation of West African slaves there in the 16th century, and that was common to the slaves who whose uprising against their French owners eventually became the Haitian Revolution. For a more nuanced explication Haiti’s Satanic provenance—”Government Of The Devil, By The Devil, And For The Devil”—go here.

So because the people of Haiti practice a different religion from Robertson—about which everything he knows he learned from watching The Serpent and the Rainbow—it follows that their historic liberation in a bloody war must have been the result of a negotiation with a malevolent supernatural being who intervenes in worldly affairs. And every tragedy that has befallen their ancestors since has been deliberately directed at them by an all-powerful and loving god who wants to kill them, repeatedly, because they gained freedom by striking a deal with his enemy.

Who’s the fucking witch doctor?

Ben Smith at Politico:

A spokesman for Pat Robertson’s CBN, Chris Roslan, emails to downplay Robertson’s suggestion that Haiti’s travails are linked to legends of a pact between Hatian rebels and the devil.

Robertson, he said, is focused on the relief effort in the country, and never explicilty “stated that the earthquake was God’s wrath,” though he did call the country “cursed.”

Roslan emails:

On today’s The 700 Club, during a segment about the devastation, suffering and humanitarian effort that is needed in Haiti, Dr. Robertson also spoke about Haiti’s history. His comments were based on the widely-discussed 1791 slave rebellion led by Boukman Dutty at Bois Caiman, where the slaves allegedly made a famous pact with the devil in exchange for victory over the French. This history, combined with the horrible state of the country, has led countless scholars and religious figures over the centuries to believe the country is cursed.

Dr. Robertson never stated that the earthquake was God’s wrath.

If you watch the entire video segment, Dr. Robertson’s compassion for the people of Haiti is clear. He called for prayer for them. His humanitarian arm has been working to help thousands of people in Haiti over the last year, and they are currently launching a major relief and recovery effort to help the victims of this disaster. They have sent a shipment of millions of dollars worth of medications that is now in Haiti, and their disaster team leaders are expected to arrive tomorrow and begin operations to ease the suffering.

UPDATE: Christopher Hitchens in Slate

1 Comment

Filed under Foreign Affairs, Political Figures, Religion

It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Correct The Washington Post

From the Washington Post:


Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Nov. 26 article in the District edition of Local Living incorrectly said a Public Enemy song declared 9/11 a joke. The song refers to 911, the emergency phone number.

Rizoh at Rap Up

The embarrassment could’ve been easily avoided had the writer actually listened to “911 Is A Joke” first. I’ve done all the hardwork for them by digging up a music video of the 1989 PE classic. It took me 5 seconds.



Why WaPo Neocons Should Not Write About Hip Hop


Unfortunately the U.S. military had already invaded Public Enemy by the time of this correction.

Michael Scherer at Swampland at Time

John Cook at Gawker (well, the comments):

“The Washington Post would also like to clarify a misstatement published on Nov. 26 in a profile of the actor and musician Will Smith. Mr. Smith was never, in fact, heir to the throne of Bel Air.”

In other news, police were fruitless in their attempts today to recover rapper Q-Tip’s wallet in El Segundo, CA.

Leor Galil:

It’s hard to tell how “911 Is A Joke” fit into the article, as it was immediately removed from the piece. (I have been unable to retrieve the original version of the article.) In any case, this is a major issue considering that song was off a Billboard-topping album released on Mar. 20, 1990 (A Huffington Post piece on the correction incorrectly stated that the album was released on May 26, 1990, which happens to be the date that the album peaked on Billboard at No. 10.) Considering that 1) the album came out 11 years before 9/11 and 2) Public Enemy were at the peak of their fame and notoriety when they dropped Fear of a Black Planet, it’s something of a big error that Dickson mistook a song where Flavor Flav raps about the (lack of) emergency responses in black communities to have something to do with September 11th. Considering the members of Public Enemy are still prominent members of the black community, its a bit reckless to say they made a song declaring 9/11 a joke when there’s plenty of evidence saying otherwise.

So, of course, the correction went viral.

The Daily Swarm posted the correction on its site a day after the correction came out. And then it made the rounds shortly thereafter.

Rachel Maddow tweeted about it.

The Huffington Post had a write up (with an inaccuracy of its own, as I previously mentioned.)

The Washington City Paper had a little post on its Arts Blog.

Techdirt took the Post to task for the error.

The Rap Up used it as ammo for the Post’s lack of hip-hop knowledge.

All told, the short correction generated more readership than the initial article did. Dickson’s piece had a Facebook widget that said four people had posted it to their Facebook sites.

444 people linked to the Post’s correction on Facebook; 55 people plastered the link on digg.

1,890 people linked to the article on Twitter. That’s over 59 times as many people who tweeted the original article.

All of this isn’t even counting all the write-ups linking to the correction, many of which show a healthy number of posts on Facebook, Twitter and other sites.

Clearly, Dickson and the Post made an error (UPDATE/CORRECTION: As Post music/arts critic J. Freedom du Lac points out, one cannot definitively say who at the paper caused the error – it could be an editor-introduced error as much as anyone else’s error). Unfortunately, a lot has been lost in the re-tweets and re-posts of the correction. People have been too quick to jump on the Post for the error, many of whom criticized the Post for not putting a correction up sooner.

Yet, most of these individuals would have never discovered the error had the Post not written about it in the first place: only three readers commented about the error when it first cropped up. And obviously, the Post listened.

Craig Silverman at Columbia Journalism Review:

Then along came @phontigallo. That’s the Twitter account of Phonte (Phonte Coleman), a member of the Grammy-nominated hip hop group Little Brother. Just after 11 p.m. on Sunday, he tweeted a link to the Post correction and noted, “This inspired my next trending topic.” From there, he unveiled the #washingtonpostcorrections hashtag, which invited people to come up with amusing imagined corrections related to famous hip hop songs and artists. He started things off with these:

Soon, people were chiming in and a meme was born. Twitter users continued to churn out imagined Post corrections into the early part of this week. Some of my favorites:

@iivoreee: ‘Fear of A Black Planet’ determined to be an album and not a critique of a struggling dating site.

@jsmooth995: George Clinton has assured us his roof remains intact, and he takes fire safety quite seriously

@corones: An earlier article incorrectly stated that Chicago was not Frank Sinatra’s kind of town. In fact, it is.

@corones: An earlier article incorrectly stated that Sir-Mix-A-Lot dislikes big butts. We regret the error.

@justinmpeterson: We regret mistakenly asserting that Coolio had been spending most his life living in a gangsta’s paradise.

@justinmpeterson: We would like to clarify that if you got a problem, yo, Vanilla Ice will not actually solve it.

Also on Twitter, Post reporter J. Freedom du Lac (@jfdulac) took note of the trending topic:

Not surprisingly, our “9/11 is a joke” correction has become a meme. And some of the #washingtonpostcorrections are hilarious.One person also used the hashtag as a vehicle for media criticism:

@streethistory #washingtonpostcorrections is still more accurate then the #washingtontimes(We’ll forgive him his “then” error…)

Corrections are often amusing. This was a great example of that fact. But the use of a correction to create a hashtag is also a powerful reminder that the public knows what corrections are, and why they exist. The commenters on the Post’s story didn’t hesitate to demand a correction, and Twitter users had no problem using the correction format and tone as a means to elicit humor. It speaks to how ingrained the correction is in the minds of citizens and media consumers.

The birth of the #washingtonpostcorrections hashtag once again sends the message that people expect corrections. News organizations also shouldn’t be surprised to see their mea culpa take on a life of its own.

UPDATE: Regret The Error

1 Comment

Filed under Bloggy Funnies, Mainstream, Music, New Media

They’re Getting Armed Against The Pitchforks

Alice Schroeder at Bloomberg:

“I just wrote my first reference for a gun permit,” said a friend, who told me of swearing to the good character of a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker who applied to the local police for a permit to buy a pistol. The banker had told this friend of mine that senior Goldman people have loaded up on firearms and are now equipped to defend themselves if there is a populist uprising against the bank.

I called Goldman Sachs spokesman Lucas van Praag to ask whether it’s true that Goldman partners feel they need handguns to protect themselves from the angry proletariat. He didn’t call me back. The New York Police Department has told me that “as a preliminary matter” it believes some of the bankers I inquired about do have pistol permits. The NYPD also said it will be a while before it can name names.


Common sense tells you a handgun is probably not even all that useful. Suppose an intruder sneaks past the doorman or jumps the security fence at night. By the time you pull the pistol out of your wife’s jewelry safe, find the ammunition, and load your weapon, Fifi the Pomeranian has already been taken hostage and the gun won’t do you any good. As for carrying a loaded pistol when you venture outside, dream on. Concealed gun permits are almost impossible for ordinary citizens to obtain in New York or nearby states.

In other words, a little humility and contrition are probably the better route.

Until a couple of weeks ago, that was obvious to everyone but Goldman, a firm famous for both prescience and arrogance. In a display of both, Blankfein began to raise his personal- security threat level early in the financial crisis. He keeps a summer home near the Hamptons, where unrestricted public access would put him at risk if the angry mobs rose up and marched to the East End of Long Island.

Naked Capitalism:

This isn’t hard to understand at all. Goldman ran afoul of one of Machiavell’s big rules: “Men sooner forget the death of their father than the loss of their patrimony.” Or its 21st century variant: “You can take from all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot take from all the people all of the time. ” But the banksters, and Goldman in particular, have been determined to push the limits of those formulas, and are learning, much to their surprise, that they neglected to consider the intensity of the backlash that might result from their considerable success in extracting rents from the populace. Or did they?


These guys really are something aren’t they? First they seem to actually believe that “populists” are coming to take over their bank and second that they could “defend” it with pistols. Good God, these people really do think they are John Galt, don’t they?

Matt Taibbi:

I’m reading this article on Goldman executives applying en masse for gun permits and I’m trying to decide exactly how funny it is on a scale of 1 to 10. Reader assistance here is definitely appreciated.

On the unfunny side: it’s never good when anyone buys guns, particularly not rich weenies with persecution complexes. Also, it might possibly be true that people have threatened Goldman bankers physically, which would really not be all that funny and would make me personally feel somewhat uncomfortable, although it would probably never be very high on the list of things I have to lose sleep over.

On the funny side, there are several things to consider. There’s the image of Goldman guys walking into Dean and DeLuca’s nervously grabbing at their holstered nines as they buy espresso and soy waffles. There’s the idea that some of these dorks might actually think that they’re going to forestall proletarian rebellion by keeping guns in their Hamptons beach houses. There’s even the impossible-to-resist image of a future accidental shooting of some innocent hot dog vendor on Park Avenue, followed by the inevitable p.r. response from Goldman in which the bank claims that the only thing its employees are guilty of is “being really good at shooting people.”

Certainly, there are things to ponder on both sides. Right now I’m leaning toward making this a seven on the funny scale, trending toward eight. Advice more than welcome.

John Cook at Gawker

Leave a comment

Filed under Economics, Guns

Fox News Mistakes (D-Fla)

Matt Dornic at Fishbowl DC:

After a few footage mishaps at Fox News like their recent slip-up: “Fox News Uses Old Palin Footage,” the higher ups at the network have had enough.

In an email obtained by FishbowlDC, FNC management alerted the Newsroom that they were going to a “zero base” newscast production, defined in the memo…

“That means we will start by going to air with only the most essential, basic, and manageable elements. To share a key quote from today’s meeting: “It is more important to get it right, than it is to get it on.” We may then build up again slowly as deadlines and workloads allow so that we can be sure we can quality check everything before it makes air, and we never having to explain, retract, qualify or apologize again.”The memo warns that those involved in future “mistake chains” will receive “warning letters to personnel files, suspensions, and other possible actions up to and including termination.”

John Cook at Gawker:

First Fox got caught lying about the crowd at Michele Bachmann’s healthcare protest, then it got caught lying about the size of the crowd at Sarah Palin’s book-signing. But the straw that broke the camel’s back came last week when producers showed a screenshot of a horrible cruel attack on Sarah Palin called Going Rouge when they should have showed a screenshot of a brilliant sacred book by Sarah Palin called Going Rogue.

So now they’ve decided to start caring about “quality” to avoid embarrassing Palin again in the future, and sent out a staff memo, obtained by FishbowlDC, threatening everyone who screws up again with “termination.” To that end, and to make things easier since facts are hard, Fox will “zero base” production, eliminating everything that has a potential for being wrong from each broadcast. It will be exceedingly boring to watch, but at least Roger Ailes will never have to “explain, retract, qualify or apologize again.” Because the whole “never apologize, never back down, always attack” routine only works if you don’t constantly get caught lying.

Josh Marshall at TPM

Steve Benen:

This makes sense. Fox News’ “on-screen errors” have been ridiculous for years, from deceptive footage, to absurd on-screen text, to chyron mistakes (such as identifying former Rep. Mark Foley as “D-Fla.” at the height of his sex scandal).

As it happens, nearly all of these “on-screen errors” serve to benefit Republican goals and preconceived narratives. Must be a coincidence.

But now Fox News is going to address this. Good for them. At the risk of sounding picky, though, when might the network take a “zero-tolerance” approach to the accuracy of the rest of its broadcasts? “On-screen errors” have clearly been a problem, but it’s not as if the rest of on-air reporting has been accurate.


How does Fox News trim the work force during a terrible recession without mentioning layoffs at all? Just put out an “internal memo” announcing a sudden & comical “zero tolerance” for the constant fuckups and intentional lies that make Fox News so funny. (The memo went out Friday, so it didn’t mention today’s hilarious idiocy.) Expect about 45% of the Fox News staff to be jobless by New Year’s.

Leave a comment

Filed under Mainstream